Teaching Ideas To Bin: Progressive Versus Traditional

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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Why does the progressive-traditional debate still rage on?

The Progressive versus Traditional debate bores the pants off me online; watching folk try to discuss complex educational matters in 140 characters is an impossible task – often polarised into ‘cherry picking evidence’ or one-upmanship.

For years I’ve argued that both styles of teaching exist within many schools. There are two or three schools who have high-profile approaches that are well-cited on social media networks, but beyond that, the teaching profession at large has little or no interest in this polarisation. The existence of this discussion in schools is rare. The falsehood that a teacher or school is either progressive or traditional, exists only for political (or exclusive) gain.

One cannot exist without the other

I do accept that a teacher can have more bias or preference for one method, but I cannot accept that one can exist without the other being present in the same classroom. Nor is either more important or effective. What works, is the quality of teaching that takes place in the classroom, and there will be at times a mixture of both. Only those who observe a wide array of teachers will know this. ‘Teaching is not two distinct theories‘ by history teacher, Richard Kennett, who summed up the ridiculous nature of this topic on social media with this:

… the polarisation of education isn’t what most of us actually do in the classroom. Additionally this is linked to the problem we have in politics on social media – social media is an echo chamber … In reality, teachers at the chalk-face actually don’t care what it’s called, they just get on with teaching, using whatever methods suit them and their students. And because of their workload, most have little time to be concerned. (Richard Kennett)

Agree to disagree

Good teaching, if allowed to thrive in traditional or progressive form, enables teachers and students to teach and learn in unison. No single method can meet the needs of millions of students, nor can one million educators in the UK agree on a single approach.

Jury: If you believe progressive or traditional teaching is important, then you’ve lost touch with what teachers are actually prioritising in schools.

Read the rest of the Teaching Ideas that TT thinks we should Bin in 2018!

One thought on “Teaching Ideas To Bin: Progressive Versus Traditional

  1. Bit insulting. This debate frames discussions around sharing practice, classroom observations, career progression, job stress via workload and behavior , the purpose of education, parental choice, evidence based practice, professional development, career progression, politics, and job satisfaction. (Apologies for any I missed). While personally I prefer the explicit vs implicit framework when discussing teaching practice I suspect you would reject this discussion as well.

    While true that teachers are largely willingly oblivious to the details the consequences of the debate are felt by every teacher in the areas I outlined above. Please reconsider your position on this. The debate may be frustrating and repetitive to you (and to be fair likely everyone else) but it is a fallacy to consider unimportant. If that doesn’t convince you swap teaching for politics and the right/left dichotomy for progressive/traditional and see if you still consider it unimportant. (Yeas I realise you consider it political already but that alone undermines your argument).

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